Faced with questions by the Election Commission and the opposition of the BJP, the Union Government on Monday justified its direct cash transfer scheme saying it was announced in this year’s Budget proposals and hence does not constitute a violation of the Model Code for Conduct.
In a communication to the Election Commission, which had on Sunday written a letter to the cabinet secretary Ajit Seth demanding to know why the scheme was announced in poll-bound Gujarat, the government said the finance minister’s budget speech in March this year had outlined the success of several pilot proejcts across a number of states relating to the Aadhar-based service delivery mechanism. This only clearly established that the scheme had already been partially operationalised even prior to March 2012, the government contended.
“The present proposal to extend the pilots to 51 districts across India is the logical next step towards the implementation of this methodology of transferring benefits to at least 50 districts. This is meant to ensure that the final roll out of Direct Cash Transfers is seamless and smooth. Thus, the proposed pilot in 51 districts is not a new scheme but an extension of the pilot already in place,” the communication from the Planning Commission said.
Government’s fire-fighter Kapil Sibal too rushed to a vocal defence the cash transfer was “only an implementation of an announcement that has already been made”.
The BJP had petitioned the EC to set aside the scheme, which it termed as a bid to influence voters. The EC too warned the government of “appropriate action” if they did not come up with its reply by 5 p.m. The Cabinet Secretariat told the poll panel that it had asked the Planning Commission for details of the scheme
Following the government’s defence, the three-member poll body headed by the V S Sampath, discussed the matter but deferred a decision. Sources said the panel wcould take a decision on Tuesday.